‘I feel lost’: Graduates’ fears as pandemic hits jobs market

Two graduates and a school leaver speak to STV News about the difficulties they've faced while seeking employment.

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As a graduate with a first class degree in politics, Ellie Wilson had hoped the world would be her oyster.

The 23-year-old from Glasgow was looking forward to the work experience she had lined up – but the opportunity fell through due to the pandemic.

“I’d made so many sacrifices to come out of university with the grades that I’d gotten and I’d worked really hard,” Ellie told STV News.

“And it felt so disappointing to know that I’m here and I don’t know what is happening anymore with my life.”

Ellie says her generation has been handed a tough card.
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Ellie then started searching for work, but it was a struggle.

“I would go on different websites and they would say sorry, we’re not hiring, we have no vacancies.

‘I don’t know what is happening anymore with my life.’

Ellie Wilson, graduate

“As a graduate with a great degree from a top university, I thought I shouldn’t have any problem with finding a job, but there was just nothing – no-one was hiring.

“It wasn’t even that I wasn’t good enough, it’s just that they weren’t accepting anything.”

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Ellie is now taking on a Masters degree, in the hope the situation will improve as time goes on.

But this means more debt and continuing to rely on her family for financial support.

“Myself and my generation have been dealt a really tough card,” she says.

“And I’m trying to not feel as though my degree was a waste, because I learned so much from it, and I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved.

“But it’s so difficult to not know what lies ahead and that feeling is really scary.

“I can only describe it as feeling lost.”

Allan says he’s applied for ten to 15 jobs every three to four days.

In Dundee, school leaver Allan Mcdermott is also wondering what the future holds.

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Since his college course in painting and decorating was put on hold, he’s been trying to find work with help from the city’s Street League organisation.

The charity helps young people break into the jobs market, by providing training and motivational activities.

“I would apply for ten to 15 jobs every three or four days, maybe just to try and get at least a little bit of luck,” he said.

“I’ve had emails back saying due to experience, it’s unavailable, the space has been taken up by someone else. It’s hard – I’m not getting any chances.”

The 17-year-old says not being in work has affected his mental health.

“Waking up in the morning, not having a job to go to is tough. There’s nothing that can really be done to keep myself occupied or keep myself busy.

“With a job it would be so much easier as well, with the headspace. So much better.”

Graduate Angus struggled to get a job in a supermarket.

Back in Glasgow, Angus Gillies is also desperate to find a job.

After failing to find any filmmaking or journalism internships, the graduate widened his search – but to no avail.

“I went along to my local supermarket and handed in my CV at the very, very start of lockdown. But unfortunately by the time I got there, 100 other people already had as well.

“Even though I knew one of the people working there, they said that there’s no chance, that I shouldn’t even take the CV along, because they’ve already had so many CVs in, they’re inundated with them.”

Angus is now receiving Universal Credit to make ends meet.

“I’ve pretty much been applying for every job under the sun,” he said.

“Some go a little bit further, some go to interviews, sometimes I get an offer but then it gets retracted. It’s continuously up in the air.”

‘There’s nothing I can do other than have that little bit of luck.’

Allan Mcdermott, school leaver

Ellie, Allan and Angus all say they’re trying to remain positive about their job prospects.

But they know that the fallout from Covid 19 means they’re facing an uphill battle.

“There’s nothing I can do other than have that little bit of luck,” said Allan.

“I’m just going to have to find a way of managing this and coping with the new normal that we’re in,” adds Angus.

“It’s not the most optimistic time. But what can you do?”

“I can’t see the job market recovering any time soon,” Ellie says.

“I think that the legacy of what has happened is going to follow us for decades.”


Forbes: Chancellor should not decide which jobs are viable

A new job support scheme will replace furlough in November but is only designed to protect jobs deemed 'viable'.

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Kate Forbes: Localised lockdowns not taken into account.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak should not be able to decide what is a “viable job”, Scotland’s finance secretary has said.

The job support scheme announced by Sunak on Thursday is intended to replace furlough when that form of support ends next month, but only jobs that are deemed viable will be eligible for the new payment.

Kate Forbes expressed concern at the new measures, which she said should have also included an extension to the furlough scheme.

She told PA: “I don’t believe it’s the Chancellor’s job to decide what is and isn’t a viable job, because this scheme requires people to be in some form of work.”

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She said localised lockdowns are not taken into account in the scheme, and neither are parts of the economy such as nightclubs which have not yet been allowed to open at all.

The finance secretary added: “Where we’ve seen localised lockdowns during furlough, businesses have been able to re-furlough their staff and get access to critical support – this scheme won’t allow for that.

“The other thing it won’t allow for is sectors that haven’t been allowed to reopen, either because they have to remain shut or because business hasn’t increased.

“These are viable jobs, they’re good jobs – but because of the nature of lockdown right now, people have not been allowed to reopen.

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“The Chancellor’s scheme is, wrongly in my view, trying to determine what is and isn’t a viable job in a way that does not appreciate the reality of the situation we are living in.”

Under the new scheme, employers will continue to pay staff wages for the hours they work.

But if they are not required to work their full hours, the government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary.

It means employees who are working shorter hours than normal will still be paid two-thirds of the hours for the time they cannot work.

Employees must be working at least a third (33%) of their usual hours and will receive at least 77% of their normal pay.

Forbes also said she hoped clarity would have been given earlier for what was going to replace the furlough scheme at the end of October.

She said furlough should have been extended for businesses not yet allowed to open to ensure some support for staff who are unable to return to work at all.

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The minister added she has had “no indication” of Barnett consequentials coming to the Scottish Government as a result of the Chancellor’s winter economy plan.

She also said she is still waiting for information on extra funding from previous announcements such as the self-isolation payments set out in August.

A spokesman for the Treasury said: “The UK-wide package announced yesterday was broadly welcomed by business groups across Scotland and provides welcome support for businesses and workers.

“As the Chancellor has said, it would be fundamentally wrong to hold people in jobs that only exist inside the furlough.

“Our focus will continue to be on creating new opportunities for people in Scotland and supporting them into viable and secure jobs.”

Scotland confirms 558 new coronavirus cases in record high

It amounts to 9.5% of newly-tested individuals, the highest percentage of positive tests seen during the second spike

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Scotland has recorded 558 new coronavirus cases overnight, the most on record.

It amounts to 9.5% of newly-tested individuals, the highest proportion of positive tests since the government began publishing the data in July.

The World Health Organisation says countries who keep that percentage under 5% generally have their epidemic under control.

No new deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the organisation which notifies the Scottish Government of fatalities had suffered a power outage.

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Of the new cases, 255 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 61 in Lanarkshire and 119 in Lothian.

It comes as infections surge among student populations around the country, however, the First Minister insisted the new cases “are not just a university problem”.

On Thursday, the governing body Universities Scotland announced students will be banned from pubs and restaurants or from socialising outside their household this weekend in a bid to curb the spread.

At Friday’s briefing, Sturgeon stressed it was just a temporary measure to try to stem immediate Covid-19 outbreaks on campuses.

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She added that the Scottish Government is assessing if students can be allowed to leave student accommodation to return to their family homes.

It follows new Scotland-wide restrictions this week banning people from visiting other people’s homes and imposing a 10pm curfew on all pubs, bars and restaurants.

Friday marks the second day this week the single-day record for new coronavirus cases in Scotland has been broken after 486 cases were announced on Wednesday.

There are 89 people in hospital around Scotland confirmed to have the virus, up by four in 24 hours.

Of these patients, 11 are in intensive care, up by one.

Greens in plea for 100,000 coronavirus tests a day

The health spokeswoman for the Scottish Greens is also pushing for 'frontline workers' to have access to tests.

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Tests: Greens calling for 100,000 a day.

The Scottish Greens have pushed for mass Covid-19 testing of up to 100,000 people every day.

In a letter to the First Minister, the party’s health spokeswoman Alison Johnstone has called for an expansion to include increased weekly testing for NHS staff and carers, increased access for university students and staff, and “targeted weekly testing” for teachers.

Johnstone also pushed for “frontline workers” – including retail and hospitality staff – to have access to tests before they develop symptoms.

She urged the Scottish Government to invest in more advanced tests, such as the 15-minute version designed by Abbott Laboratories which cost $5 (£3.80) each.

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She said: “The Scottish Greens have been consistent throughout this crisis that a robust testing regime must form the basis of Scotland’s response to the virus.

“Now, with cases rising rapidly and the privatised UK-wide testing system failing to keep up, the case for mass testing is stronger than ever.

“The more data we have about who has the virus and where it is spreading, the sooner we can take action to reduce or better target the restrictions that can harm people’s liberty, mental health and economic prospects.”

Johnstone said it is time for Scotland to end its partial reliance on the UK Government’s testing system, which she described as “failing”.

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She said: “I understand Scotland’s NHS testing labs remain underused while we place the burden on the failing UK-wide system.

“That is the wrong way round. It’s time to step up Scotland’s own efforts to tackle the virus, provide regular testing for all our at-risk frontline staff and roll out the latest 15-minute tests for all.

“Scotland could be testing 100,000 people a day if we did this. The short-term cost of this would be more than worth the benefits of the country being able to recover.”

Concluding her letter, she wrote: “I realise that these proposals would require a major effort and expense, though I note that £136m of consequentials linked to Covid-19 testing have already been available to Scotland and there may be other opportunities to shift capital given the critical importance of delivering mass testing.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have recently secured a deal with LumiraDx to supply 12-minute test instruments to NHS Scotland which will play a vital role in Scotland’s Test and Protect strategy and will be rolled out in the near future.

“We have also continued to increase our NHS testing capacity throughout this pandemic and as we move into winter we will continue to work towards the target set out in our testing strategy of building laboratory processing capacity to approximately 65,000 tests per day between NHS Scotland laboratories and the Lighthouse Labs network in Glasgow, as we prepare for winter.

“Weekly testing is available to all care home staff and given the recent delays with the Lighthouse Lab Network, we have begun to migrate this programme of testing into NHS labs.”

Police condemn ‘sickening’ firebomb attacks on homes

Several homes were hit in the three targeted attacks.

Firebomb: 'Sickening' attacks condemned.

Police investigating a string of firebomb attacks in Greenock have described the crimes as “sickening” as they made a fresh appeal for information.

Several homes were hit in the three targeted attacks, which occurred within a matter of days, leaving one man dead and a woman seriously injured.

Two of the properties had children under the age of 10 inside at the time they were attacked.

Detective Superintendent Gerry McBride spoke as police made a fresh appeal for information on the crimes.

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He said: “I must reiterate that these recent fireraisings in Inverclyde are sickening incidents, where innocent women and children have been attacked in their own homes.

“I am certain that nobody with a moral conscience would believe that this is acceptable and I urge anyone who knows who is responsible or has information to get in touch with us as soon as possible.

“The increased police presence in the area will remain whilst investigations take place and to prevent any further incidents from happening.

“With the help of the public, we can make sure those responsible are arrested and brought to justice.”

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In the first attack, a 46-year-old man died in a fire at a flat in the town’s Union Street at around 10.30am on Monday September 14.

On September 16 in Wellington Street, a 40-year-old woman was seriously injured and her nine-year-old daughter was left greatly distressed in the second attack.

On September 19, a 45-year-old woman and three members of her family, including her six-year-old daughter, were left shaken after an accelerant was thrown at the window of a property in Cumberland Road.

Officers are keen to talk to anyone who has information about the incidents.


The cold hard reality of freezing fans out of football

Fears have been voiced about the prospect of serious financial difficulties if there wasn’t a return to some sort of normality soon.

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Warnings: Clubs could face financial difficulties.

Warnings about the cost of coronavirus to Scottish football are nothing new but there was a harder, colder edge to the conversation this week.

Since lockdown, and throughout the summer, fears have been voiced about the prospect of serious financial difficulties if there wasn’t a return to some sort of normality soon.

‘Some sort of normality’ meant at least some fans paying to push through turnstiles and into grounds. ‘Soon’ was more fluid but was generally taken to be no later than October 5, the date the Scottish Government had pencilled in for a phased return of supporters at sporting events.

The rise in coronavirus cases forced Holyrood to announce new measures to deal with the virus this week and that October date was revisited. Nicola Sturgeon said the proposed return was “unlikely”. Anyone with a grasp of reality heard that as “No chance”.

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Similar steps that were introduced in England are expected to be in place for around six months and the overall impression is that if you want to watch professional football any time before March, you should test your broadband speed and check your TV schedule.

For the clubs, the announcement didn’t bring widespread panic but the sober realisation that of the budgets drafted and marked as best case to worst case, it would be the gloomier outlook that would prove to be accurate.

The Premiership is already under way of course, with a rigorous testing regime, a plan in place and a TV deal to satisfy and help cover some costs. Below the top flight though, the action has yet to start and there are questions about how it will end.

Clubs in the Championship, League 1 and League 2 don’t start their league campaigns until mid-October and the Betfred Cup before that. The later start dates were put in place primarily because fans were expected to be in attendance by then.

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Squads are assembled, contracts are in place. Costs are set in concrete. Now, projected income has vapourised.

The Scottish FA and Scottish Professional Football League haven’t always been renowned for swift action but they did move quickly after this week’s announcement. Talks were held with government and the Scottish minister for sport penned a letter to his Westminster counterpart seeking discussions about a financial recovery package. The message was clear: Send money or many clubs will be financially crippled, if they survive at all.

It’s no exaggeration when 43% of club revenues come from ticket sales.

Will a huge rescue package from London end all fears? It seems reasonable to expect that if there’s a bail-out for English clubs then a proportionate amount would be diverted to help in Scotland as well. But the conversation south of the border seems to be that help would only go so far, with the Premier League riches expected to trickle down and help those in the lower leagues.

That couldn’t happen here. The SFA and SPFL don’t hold huge cash reserves and the former has seen its own income slashed with the latter stages of the Scottish Cup and the upcoming internationals looking like they will be played at an empty Hampden.

Top flight clubs aren’t in much of a position to help either. Belts are being tightened across the board and at the same time as Ross County are talking about helping cup opposition with testing costs, Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson is talking about the strain on his club even after they qualified for Europe and banked money from player sales.

Hamilton boss Brian Rice was blunt in his assessment on Thursday’s STV News at Six: “Bail them out. Give us a hand. The whole country is on its knees. We’re not looking for favouritism, just looking for help like everybody else is.”

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Zoom calls between the SFA, SPFL and lower league clubs on Friday were more about assessing the damage than finding a solution.

While there was a confidence about starting the season, and making it through 27 games, the longer stands remain empty the less secure clubs feel. While a hypothetical right now, a testing regime with its associated costs (estimated at between £50,000 and £100,000 a season) would bring all sorts of questions. As you would expect, what’s manageable at Championship level is less viable in League 1 and even more challenging in the bottom tier.

Clubs were also asked to put a figure on the cost of a season without fans. It’s not just taking the temperature, the figures will be used to build a case for government assistance and it could be as stark as counting the clubs who will fail to make it if a bail-out package isn’t delivered.

Beyond the plea for help, there are limited options.

Suspending the season and ‘mothballing’ wouldn’t work for many as player contracts – a major cost – have to be honoured and clauses to cancel would apparently only kick in if all football was suspended by the Scottish FA. Taking a decision now to shorten the season and only play 18 games instead of 27 would be similarly ineffective.

Government money seems the only solution to the crisis and if it doesn’t materialise then cost-cutting, video streaming revenue and other fundraising won’t go far enough to make professional football viable for some.

Instead of excitement building for the start of the new season for those outside the Premiership, it’s being approached with trepidation and uncertainty. Chairmen are less concerned with an eventual finishing position in the league than with being in a position to finish the league season.

Games will be played as reserves dwindle and fears grow. Appeals will be made and doomsday scenarios will be spelled out.

There are no easy decisions for clubs deprived of the income that’s sustained them for decades and for over century in many cases. For many, it’s a waiting game now, hoping an injection of cash arrives before it’s too late. The fate of many may be decided in the halls of government instead of on the pitch.


Federal UK ‘would replace division’ with co-operation

A Liberal Democrat MP said politicians must concede that 'Westminster does not have all the answers'.

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Westminster: MP calling for 'constructive third way'.

A federal United Kingdom could be a “constructive third way” between calls for independence and a “centralising” Westminster government, a Scottish Liberal Democrat MP has said.

Wendy Chamberlain, who won the North East Fife seat from the SNP in December’s general election, said the row over the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill had shown power must not be “hoarded” in London
She said politicians must concede Westminster “does not have all the answers”.

Chamberlain said: “Now more than ever we need a fair distribution of responsibilities and resources across the UK and co-operation between federal and state governments, with proper dispute resolution mechanisms for when they disagree.”

She was speaking ahead of the party’s virtual conference, which will include a call for Liberal Democrats across the UK to campaign for a federal settlement.

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Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for Scotland and Wales in the House of Commons, said: “The idea to reform the UK to a federal future is a constructive third way between a centralising Westminster government and a dash for independence from the nationalists. It replaces division with co-operation.”

The UK Government’s Internal Market Bill has attracted criticism from the SNP Government, and the Labour administration in Wales has also raised fears about the impact it would have on devolution.

Chamberlain said: “The outrage in all corners of the UK at the proposed centralised Internal Market Bill is a clear example where power needs to be shared across the governments and not hoarded at Westminster.

“The Liberal Democrats believe wholeheartedly in supporting a reformed union between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We believe that this is threatened by a political system which feels out of date and centralised, and has fuelled Brexit and the growth of nationalism.

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“The old-fashioned, out-of-touch Westminster must concede it does not have all the answers.”


FM: Students not to blame but please follow new rules

Nicola Sturgeon addressed students after they were banned from pubs and socialising outside their households.

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Nicola Sturgeon has insisted students are not to blame for a rise in coronavirus cases – but urged them to obey rules this weekend banning them from pubs and socialising outside their households.

The First Minister said she was “so heart sorry” for the situation students are now in and said she felt “especially for those of you starting university for the first time”.

It comes after students staying in halls were also told they cannot visit their parents’ homes indoors under current national restrictions.

On Thursday evening, strict new measures were announced for the weekend to stem campus outbreaks in Scotland.

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Hundreds of cases have been linked to universities in recent days, with more than 1000 students self-isolating as a result.

Students face disciplinary action from their universities, up to and including expulsion, if they breach rules this weekend against visiting pubs, cafes and restaurants.

They are also forbidden from going to house parties, or from socialising with anyone outside their household or student accommodation.

In a statement on Thursday, the governing body Universities Scotland blamed the measures on the behaviour of a “minority” of students.

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It warned it would take a “yellow card/red card” approach to breaches of the new rules, with expulsion from university a last-resort punishment for offending students.

But the country’s universities union UCU Scotland hit back against “blaming students” and said university principals had actively “encouraged” students back onto campuses en masse.

In a bid to provide reassurance to students and parents, Sturgeon addressed the issue at Friday’s Covid-19 briefing as she announced a record daily total of 558 new coronavirus cases.

Addressing students, Sturgeon said: “I am so sorry, so heart sorry, that this time of your lives is being made as tough as it is just now.

“I really feel for you, but I feel especially for those of you starting university for the first time and, of course, living alone for the first time.

“This is an exciting time in your lives but I remember from my own experience… that it’s also a time of adjustment and it’s also a time of home sickness as well, and that’s the case for students every year without Covid-19 but it is much more difficult given the circumstances you are all facing right now.”

She acknowledged some students feel they are being blamed for the spread of Covid-19 but declared: “That is not the case… it’s not your fault.”

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The FM also clarified that students who work in the hospitality sector will be able to work their usual shifts over the September weekend.

But besides that exception, she urged students not to go to bars or restaurants or to visit other households.

She also called on students to download the Protect Scotland app, although stressed it is “not mandatory”.

Thursday’s Universities Scotland statement had suggested students would be “required” to download the contact tracing software.

The First Minister said universities have a “big, big responsibility” to look out for the welfare and mental wellbeing of their students.

She told the briefing: “I’ve spoken personally this morning to university principals to stress their responsibilities to you and I know it is something they take seriously, but I also know that it’s something that parents will want to be assured of.

“Student services already have special arrangements in place including 24-hour helplines, support for food deliveries and additional mental health counsellors for those who might need that support.”

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is assessing whether self-isolating students can be allowed to leave their accommodation and return to their family homes, and fresh guidance on that could be issued over the weekend.

But she warned: “I’m going to be frank, that’s a difficult balancing act, because if you go home after you’ve been asked to self-isolate that may have implications for your family, who then also may be asked to self-isolate if you test positive.

“I wanted to let you know that we are looking at what might be possible there and it is our aim to issue some further guidance on that over the weekend.”

She also thanked students for their compliance, adding: “You’re bearing a burden that I desperately wish you didn’t have to be bearing right now, but you’re playing your collective part in beating Covid-19 back.

“For that, you have my thanks and deep appreciation, and also understanding of how difficult this is for you at this time.”

Going home after six months in hospital with coronavirus

Niall Williams has issued a warning to those not taking Covid-19 seriously after spending months in intensive care.

A man who spent six months battling Covid-19 has issued a stark warning to people who are not taking the virus seriously. 

Niall Williams is leaving the Cameron Rehab facility near Leven to go home for the first time since March.

He has been in hospital with the disease longer than probably anyone else in Scotland.

Mr Williams spent months in intensive care, part of that in an induced coma and even after intensive physio, he still faces major challenges.

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While he begins his recovery following his long fight with coronavirus he wants to use his experience as a warning to those who are not following the government health guidelines.

He told STV News: “Follow what you’ve been asked to do. Face masks, washing hands all the time. Be ultra careful because otherwise you could be a cropper like I was.

‘People are not realising this is an invisible disease.’

Niall Williams

“People are not realising this is an invisible disease. You can pick it up in many ways and so easily. 

“I basically got damaged, respiratory issues that may come back after time, who knows? Because we don’t know about this yet. But being able to breathe deeply and being active – it’s hard.

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“I become fatigued very, very quickly. There isn’t going to be a normal life. It’s going to take time to get back to where I was.

“Follow the rules, they are not putting them in place because they feel like it. There’s a real hard reason and scientific facts behind it.

“They are there to protect us and I just ask everybody please just follow them because you’re going to allow other people to survive if you do. It is as simple as that.”


Infected students say university outbreaks are ‘inevitable’

Students who contracted coronavirus after starting university reckon the spread in their accommodation was hard to avoid.

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Glasgow University has issued warnings for students to avoid social interactions.

Students who contracted coronavirus after starting university have said an outbreak in their accommodation was inevitable.

One student said she has now been isolating for nearly a month, having been placed in an initial 14-day quarantine on arrival from California.

The teenager and three other people in her eight-person flat in Glasgow University’s Murano Street Student Village have now tested positive for Covid-19.

The complex is the university’s largest halls of residence and can house 1175 students.

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The 18-year-old, who is studying international relations and sociology, said she is having to wash her clothes in the sink as the laundry is outside the flat.

The residents of the flat had already been isolating for five days when she received her positive test result on Friday morning.

She said: “With this many kids in this small an area, it was bound to happen.

“We have it, so the negative people are cooking. They will drop off food outside our doors.

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“It’s really hard not to mix, our kitchen is small and we have to share a bathroom. We’ve been wearing masks.”

She said she has been getting support from her family and new flatmates.

“I’ve been watching a lot of movies and just trying to focus on other things,” she added.

‘It’s freshers’ week – it just happens. You couldn’t stop it if you tried.’

Student

One flatmate, 19, from London, who also tested positive on Friday morning, said he arrived late to the flat and it had already been placed in isolation.

He said: “It’s freshers’ week – it just happens. You couldn’t stop it if you tried.

“I was washing my hands everywhere I went.

“I’m sort of glad I’ve got it so it’s out the way.”

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The flatmates had already booked a test at Glasgow Caledonian University in another part of the city before they discovered a mobile testing unit had been set up at Murano Street.

Another student in separate accommodation at the complex said there had been some positive cases in her 12-person flat, but she had tested negative.

The 19-year-old from London, who is studying medicine, said: “The uni put in place all the precautions they could, but things happen.

“As much as it’s horrible to have to be isolating already, we’re still getting to know each other so it’s not as bad as it could be.”


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